The Bookclub Bolero

The Facts

Fabric: Just under a metre of heavy weight dark grey cotton drill (denim weight (~$4)); just under a metre of light grey lining (~$3). All were from my stash
Pattern: McCall 804
Year: 1940
Notions: Embroidery floss in dark green, blue and red
Time to complete: Around 11 hours (included 6.5 hours of embroidering and a fair bit of time mucking around with the transfer stamp)
First worn: To Sunday lunch in a lovely cafe on the ocean with Steve
Wear again? Surprisingly, yes, I think so. I just need to figure out what it goes with…

Total cost: Around $7

What I would do differently next time:
Not a lot, actually! I think I’ll try making one up in long sleeves, since it’s winter, but that’s a variation rather than an alteration.

Adjustments I made:
I did a small bust adjustment and removed about 1/3 of the width of the darts on the front panels. I also switched the pattern around a bit and used the back of view A and the front of view B. (Interesting, it looks like the lady who first made this up did the exact same thing – the patterns pieces for the front of view A and the back of view B haven’t been used at all! It’s quite nice to think I’m following in the alteration footsteps of someone who probably first used this pattern about 70 years ago. 🙂 ) I also didn’t bother putting the shoulder pads in – my shoulders are broad enough already and the fabric is stiff enough that with the darts in the sleeve top it doesn’t need any extra padding.

What I love about this pattern:
Once you get through all the fiddling around with the embroidery and the sewing of the darts (I think darts are one of the most tedious things to sew – so much work and so little progress seems to be made. They’re the sewing equivalent of dry dusting a large library.), it’s nice and easy to put this pattern together. The shaping is cute at the front, and the darts on the sleeves give them a nice shape at the top. Even though I’m not really a bolero girl, I think this pattern has converted me to them!

The story:
This week’s Sew Weekly challenge was Embellish This – to incorporate embellishments into a creation. Now I must admit that a large part of me thought, ‘oh, cool, I could use some lace or some ric-rac or some piping! Nice!’ But a small, insistent part of me kept saying ‘but you have that embroidered bolero pattern from 1940. That thing is entirely about embellishment. Really, you should use that! Do it!!’ And somehow, that small, insistent part won out.

Admittedly, this pattern is rather awesome. It’s from 1940 – amazing to think of a pattern that old being there, in my stash, waiting for me! It’s the oldest pattern I’ve worked with so far, by around 7 years. This pattern ending up in my stash was a bit of a fluke – it was part of a bundle of patterns I bought a while back. I bought the bundle because of a couple of the dress patterns, and this wee beauty came along with them, much to my delight (it didn’t look all that exciting in the auction photos, you see). There are two different bolero patterns, each with iron-on transfers for the floral designs, which can be worked in either embroidery or beading.

I was originally planning on doing the floral designs all down the front of view B. I got the transfer pieces out, carefully aligned them, heated up the iron, and then…. they were out of ink. Nothing at all transferred onto the fabric. Hmmm. I set out on a quest to locate the transfer pencil I know I have somewhere – I found two old transfer pens, both of whose ink had dried up (not surprising since I think I was about 13 last time I used them. Anyone remember Trichem? Yep, they were from the Trichem craze), but I couldn’t find my new transfer pencil anywhere. I experimented a bit with baking paper and pens, but nothing was working. Hmmm. Now what? Stupidly, I’d started this on Friday evening, and there wasn’t time to go and get anything else from anywhere to do the transfer with. So, I slept on it. I fell asleep thinking about what to do instead, woke up thinking about what to do instead, and then it finally hit me – there was an extra little transfer in the pack, that was included so you could have a matching design on a dress under the bolero. I’d use that! And sure enough, it stamped beautifully. (Which sadly I forgot to take a photo of – sorry! You’ll just have to imagine that floral design outlined in pretty gold ink.)

I’m calling this the Bookclub Bolero, as I decided that my bookclub’s get-together on Saturday afternoon would be a good time to do the embroidery. Boy oh boy, am I glad those original transfers didn’t work! This tiny wee piece of embroidery took me 6.5 hours to finish – eek!!! It kept me busy all through bookclub, and then through a viewing of Clueless with my lovely flatmates (partially inspired by the Monet quote from the movie that Mena mentioned in her Embellish This post). I’m pretty happy with how the embroidery turned out, though – it’s the first time I’ve tried embroidering on clothes, and despite not really knowing what I was doing (and trying to follow the not-as-clear-as-they-could-be 70 year old instructions) and using the wrong sort of needle, it looks a lot better than I thought it would. Yay! (Although I don’t see this becoming a staple in my sewing – it just takes far too long.)

I was going to do a dress to go with the bolero, using some of the lace or ric-rac trim I got from the lovely Meg in the world-travelling lace and notions swap, but sadly the embroidery took so long I just ran out of time. Never mind, I fully intend to use some for next week’s creation!

After I finished the bolero, the long-suffering Steve and I went out for a (rather late due to sewing time taking longer than expected – whoops!) lunch at a cute wee cafe out around Scorching Bay. We drove around some of the bays on the way back home, and stopped briefly to get these photos near Wellington Airport. We were originally planning on going for a nice long walk after lunch, but those blue skies are deceptive – it was very cold out there today (and windy, as you can see in the way the skirt is plastered to my legs!), and even with a wool coat and scarf and gloves over top of this it was just too cold to be out of the car for more than about 5 minutes! Eek! But hey, cold winter weather makes for brilliant blue skies for photographs. 🙂


10 responses to “The Bookclub Bolero

  1. Great job with the embroidery – that really makes the piece special.

    • Thanks Donna! I must admit I’m loving the look of the embroidery. Shame it takes so long to do, or I think I’d use it again soon!

  2. Your bolero turned out beautifully. Your embroidery looks quite nice. :]

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  5. Love, love, love it! I’ve been dying to see McCall 804 all sewn up. I have a particular love for the McCall patterns from 1940 and this looks fabulous! Well done!

    • Thanks Debi! I love this pattern – not something I ever thought I’d make or wear, but it’s so cute and takes such a small amount of fabric, it’s rather hard to resist making heaps of them. 🙂

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